Delicious Dinners at the Shadow of the Carob Tree
The Iblean cookery is so rich that it is nearly impossible to mention all its specialties and to give each their proper value.
First off the climate and the geographic position have had a positive influence for the colours and the flavours of the cuisine; then the many foreign dominations that over the centuries have left in the cookery, as elsewhere in Sicily, positive signs of their passage.
The local people are fond of food.
The pasta and the first courses are beloved, seasoned with tomato or meat sauces, worth mentioning that of pork.
Best-known are the baked “maccarruna” (maccheroni) and the pasta “alla picurara”, with potatoes cooked into milk; the pasta “alla carrittera”, with oil and raw garlic; the pasta “’cca cucuzza fritta”, with fried sliced courgette; the pasta “’cca ricotta”, with sheep ricotta and “hot” pecorino.
These are all typical dishes of the areas rich of vegetables, like the “piana” (plain) of Vittoria, or the coast of Scicli.
Tomatoes are basic ingredients of many renowned recipes.
They are essential to produce the famous “sugo di carne”, the pork meat sauce, obtained from the “‘strattu”, a tomato’s by-product.
The “ciappi” are tomatoes naturally dried at the sun.
Pulse is another traditional ingredient.
It is famous the pasta “’cco maccu”, with soup of mashed beans, once eaten by the peasants of Ragusa and Modica.
The “cicerchia” is a bean flour, used in Monterosso Almo to produce typical dough.
Strolling around the countryside, it easily happens to run into someone busy on picking some wild vegetables, like the borage, especially in spring, used to season meat or ricotta’s ravioli, and the asparagus, especially in winter, and the “funci ‘i carrua”, mushrooms growing at the shade of the carob tree.
In this respect we mention the production of carobs (first producer in Italy with 50% of the National production), used in the production or flavouring of sweets, liquors and, even, candies.
A singular specialty is the soup of “babbaluci”, the snails, usually “hunted” by groups of friends after long rains, and prepared with oil, oregano, onion and garlic.
The second courses are also worth mentioning. Besides a strong tradition of fish dishes, there are avicultural specialties like the “jaddina china”, chicken stuffed with rice and giblets, or renowned hunting ones, like the “cunigghio ‘a stimpirata”, the best famous baked rabbit seasoned after an old traditional recipe.
Sweets and confectionery are likely the true food heritage of this side of Sicily, with a big variety of delicious specialties available.
Once mainly linked to feasts or religious events, confectionery is today available anytime one wishes: the “torrone bianco” (white torrone) in Giarratana; the “mustazzola” (type of biscotti) in Vittoria, Comiso and Acate; the “’mpanatigghi”, the “quaresimali”, the “cassatine”, the “cioccolatta” and the “cobaita” in Modica; the honey in Santa Croce Camerina, Monterosso and Chiaramonte, already famous at the time of Plutarco and Ovidio and celebrated by Shakespeare in its “Julius Caesar”.